The body of the former member of the f (x) girl group was discovered by her boss at her house in Sujeong-gu, Seongnam, south of the capital Seoul, on Monday afternoon local time, police told CNN. In a statement Tuesday, Sulli's agency SM Entertainment said the star's family planned a private funeral, adding that relatives were "saddened by this unexpectedly sad news."
But her views often made her a target for online trolls, especially by anti-feminists, said CedarBough Saeji, an expert on Korean culture and society at the University of British Columbia.
"She was brave," Saeji said on Tuesday. "The fact that Sulli repeatedly did things that misogynists didn't like and refused to apologize is how she really stood out."
Saeji said that in South Korea, K-pop stars were expected to apologize publicly when they failed to meet the high – and sometimes unrealistic – standards expected by the industry. But Sulli refused to change, even appearing in a TV show where K-pop stars discussed the challenges of negative comments online.
"That society would criticize her so strongly just for showing individuality in a way that did not exactly conform to Korean social norms, it is just so incredibly sad," Saeji said.
"I am so sorry that she did not have people who supported her in the same way that she supported – in her own cruel way – equality between women and men Korea. She was also a voice and advocate for major issues in Korean society. "
As of Tuesday, three petitions had been filed on the Blue House production page, all demanding stricter rules for cyber bullying.
South Korea's entertainment industry has become one of the country's largest exports in the last decade. But K-pop stars – who often train for several years before they make their debut – subjected to intense pressure, which has been linked to a mental health crisis in the industry.
The singer had posted the word "Goodbye" to her Instagram account, which gets a flood of comments from concerned fans.